Richmond’s firefighters will receive a 3% salary increase with their new two-year contract.

The raise will be split with 1.5% this year and 1.5%, non-compounding, in 2024, according to the contract approved April 27 by the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety. The contract — and the raise makes the base firefighter salary $53,279.90 in 2023 and $54,067.29 in 2024 — will be retroactive to Jan. 1.

The city and the International Association of Firefighters AFL-CIO Local 1408 negotiated the compromise after previous efforts to resolve their impasse failed.

“It was a long process; we had a lot to work through,” Mayor Dave Snow said. “We’ve been able to do that successfully and reach [an] agreement.”

In addition to the raise, the contract includes a new deputy chief of public safety information technology position that’s been filled by Deputy Chief Jamey Miller.

The union’s original request included a three-year contract with 4% raises each year and six new positions, but that was modified after some negotiation to a 4.5% raise in 2023 and three additional positions. The city, which already is using $1.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to fund the 2023 budget, was offering no raise and no new positions.

The sides presented those positions to a five-member, fact-finding panel during December, and the panel recommended 2% raises each year of a two-year contract and three new positions. The city found that recommendation untenable and the recommendations were presented Jan. 17 to Richmond Common Council, which on Feb. 6 voted 8-1 against accepting them.

That restarted negotiations.

“It’s taken us quite a bit of time to come to this final contract, but we wanted to impress upon 1408 that we were being transparent and we were showing what we could afford,” Snow said. “They did their due diligence to look into that and, I think, we’re at a point now where they understand our position and we’ve done our best to meet their wants and needs. We have a contract and we’ll look forward to negotiating the next one in good faith.”

While the contract situation is now resolved, Local 1408 has filed suit against the city, the board of works, the three board of works members, Snow and Fire Chief Tim Brown about denying a member’s wife’s later enrollment in the city’s health insurance plan if she is not a participant at the time of the member’s retirement.

The complaint says the city is requiring the wife to terminate her employment before her husband’s retirement in order to receive retiree insurance, and requests an order for the city to provide such insurance and/or a monetary award.

The board of works, with two alternative members replacing members who recused themselves, voted March 23 to deny the union’s grievance. Minutes from that meeting indicate Local 1408 argued that spouses have historically been permitted — and should be permitted — to join the retiree’s insurance even if not participating at the time of retirement despite language in the union’s contract requiring participation when the member retires.

The lawsuit has been assigned to Superior Court 1.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 3 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.